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Strong RE Programs Begin with Strong Leaders

Strong RE Programs Begin with Strong Leaders

Blueprint for Excellence: Best Practices for RE


A Blueprint for Excellence:
Best Practices for Unitarian Universalist Congregations

The Search for Religious Education Leadership

Best practices for the search, interview, employment agreement, determination of fair compensation and benefits, and congregational support for Unitarian Universalist religious education professionals.

The Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) promotes religious growth and learning for people of all ages by providing opportunities for continuing education, sharing resources, advocating for professional recognition, and providing encouragement and support for religious educators.

This pamphlet was developed, printed and distributed by LREDA through a generous grant from the
Council on Church Staff Finances.


Support for the Search Process
The search for religious education leadership is an important process. In order to assist Unitarian Universalist congregations in this search, we have consulted parish ministers, religious educators, lay leaders from congregations, the Ministerial Settlement and Church Staff Finance Offices in the Department of Ministry, and the Religious Education Department. We are firmly committed to practices that are just and equitable for all parties.

We hope that the information in this booklet will help to set the stage for a rewarding, successful relationship between your congregation and its religious educator.

You may wish to consult the following resources:

·         Director of Professional Development in the UUA Department of Religious Education

·         Settlement Office of the UUA Department of Ministry

·         District Religious Education Consultant

·         District Compensation Consultant

·         District Executive

·         District Religious Education Committee

·         Good Officers for members of LREDA or UUMA - both for conflict management and consultation

·         Liberal Religious Educators Association

·         UUA website at

The two online documents below are frequently updated:

The Search for Religious Education Leadership: Good Practices for Unitarian Universalist Congregations , provided by the Religious Education Department, is designed for congregations searching for a non-ordained religious educator. This guide can be found at:

The Settlement Manual , provided by the Department of Ministry, is designed to guide congregations seeking to call a Minister of Religious Education. This guide can be found at:

The Appropriate Religious Educator
The first step is to determine whether your congregation is looking for an ordained or a lay religious educator. The Search Committee will determine the requirements for the position of DRE/MRE. You will consider, at a minimum, the appropriate candidate's relevant experience, familiarity with UUA RE curricula, organizational skills, experience in working with volunteers, ability to work collaboratively, and experience in designing worship. You will determine whether you expect your candidate to also have skills in preaching, pastoral care, conducting rites of passage, designing and administering adult programs, and/or small-group facilitation.

Typically a Minister of Religious Education (MRE) is a graduate of a theological school who has completed clinical pastoral education, has served as an intern minister in a congregational setting, has been welcomed into fellowship as a Unitarian Universalist minister by the UUA, and has been ordained by a congregation. An MRE is called to serve in the same way that a parish minister is called, is in collegial relationship with other professional staff, works collaboratively with the RE Committee, and is most often responsible to the Board of Trustees and the congregation.

A Director of Religious Education (DRE) is most commonly non-ordained, and has a combination of practical experience and higher education in one of the following fields: education, religion, social service, and/or the arts. The DRE works collegially with the parish minister and collaboratively with the RE Committee, and may be responsible to the Board of Trustees, another small group appointed by the Board, the parish minister, or according to local custom.

Before the position opening is announced and advertised, the congregation should develop, adopt, and make widely known its policy regarding hiring or calling members from the congregation.

If a temporary religious educator is being sought, a decision needs to be made about whether the position will be "Acting" or "Interim." If the position is "Interim", the incumbent should not apply for the permanent position. This policy is mandated for ministers settled through the Settlement Office of the UUA Department of Ministry, and it is good practice to extend this policy to all religious educators. An "Acting" religious educator may apply for the permanent position.

The Search
LREDA recommends that before the search process begins, a congregational assessment be conducted. Input from such a survey can be invaluable. In order to insure that the search process meets anti-racist and anti-oppression criteria you may wish to explore Beyond Categorical Thinking, which is available from the Department of Ministry.

Most congregations appoint or elect a Search Committee of three to seven members. This Committee may consult with the parish minister and other appropriate church staff, the Religious Education Committee, the Personnel Committee, and the Board of Trustees to develop the position description, the salary range and benefits package, and a sample letter of agreement or contract.

Every effort should be made to compensate both ordained and lay religious educators according to the UUA guidelines. The UUA publication, To Sustain the Living Tradition, along with the most recent salary guidelines (approved by the UUA Board June 2000), will help congregations discern the appropriate range for a candidate. Further information is available from your District Compensation Consultant or from the Office of Church Staff Finances at the UUA.

Be sure to consult the Settlement Office in the Department of Ministry for policies that apply specifically to Ministers of Religious Education. The remainder of this document pertains primarily to the search for Directors of Religious Education.

The call for applications for Directors of Religious Education should be distributed widely throughout the District and UUA by utilizing:

·         District Field Staff/Consultants

·         District Religious Education Committee

·         District LREDA Chapter

·         UU World magazine and District newsletters

·         LREDA and REACH e-mail lists

·         LREDA mailing list (contact )

·         UUA Website available positions listing

·         Local congregations

·         Local newspapers

·         Local college and university placement offices

Selecting a Candidate
After the Search Committee has screened applicants, interviews are scheduled. If an applicant from outside the local area is invited for an interview, she or he should be compensated for travel and expenses during the interview day(s). In the case of applicants who will not be asked to interview, a letter should be sent immediately to thank them for applying. If an applicant is a member of the congregation and will not be interviewed, the chair of the Search Committee meets with or contacts the applicant by telephone to thank her or him for applying.
The Search Committee prepares questions for the candidates and conducts the interviews. Each interview should follow the same format. Candidates who are not familiar with the buildings should be given a brief tour, including the office space designated for the religious educator. The same questions should be asked of each applicant with the answers noted in writing. At the conclusion of the interviews the Search Committee should exchange notes and observations and make note of any follow up questions.

The next task is to call all the references of the final candidates. In addition to references, many congregations also require that the candidates undergo a complete background check. See the UUA Settlement Handbook for more details.

Upon review of the references, the top-ranked candidate is selected and approved as per congregational policy. The candidate is then contacted and offered the position by the chair of the Search Committee. After the candidate accepts the position, and before a public announcement is made, all other candidates are contacted in person or by telephone to inform them that they were not selected and to thank them for their interest in the position. A follow-up letter should be sent within one or two days.

Coming To Agreement
Once a candidate has been selected, the responsibilities are reviewed and mutually accepted. Specific information about benefits is provided to the incumbent. It is expected that a religious education professional serving half-time or more receive the following benefits, pro-rated proportionally in comparison with full-time service:

  • health insurance (in the US)
  • life and disability insurance
  • Social Security
  • pension/retirement plan
  • sick leave
  • vacation time/study leave
  • family leave
  • bereavement leave
  • sabbatical

Variables that affect the salary range and compensation level may include

  • previous experience as a professional religious educator
  • education level and advanced degrees
  • religious education training (Renaissance, Meadville Winter Institute, Leadership School, etc.)
  • size and scope of your religious education program
  • supervisory responsibility for an assistant, childcare provider, youth advisor, etc.

A separate professional expense account should be established to fund continuing education, training, dues for professional organizations, books, periodicals, travel and registration fees for conferences and General Assembly, and other relevant expenses.

Religious education professionals serving small congregations and working less than half-time are often paid an hourly wage comparable to that of a public school teacher or school administrator. Your District Office can assist you in locating salary guidelines for these less-than-half-time positions.

The congregation is encouraged to provide a private office for the religious education professional with telephone, computer and other necessary and basic office equipment. Secretarial support is advised.

Covenanting affirms the value and scope of the religious educator's work and defines expectations and responsibilities on the part of the religious educator and the congregation. This can be a powerful tool for developing healthy and vibrant relationships with religious education professionals. The parish minister and the religious education professional may wish to make a mutual covenant to support collegiality and shared leadership. Contact the Congregational, District, and Extension Services Department at the UUA for more information.

It has proved beneficial to form a Committee on Ministry or a MRE/DRE Relations Committee to facilitate the continuing relationship between the congregation and the religious educator.

Your congregation may wish to honor its commitment to religious education and to the newly called or hired religious education professional by arranging a service of installation. Models of installation services are available from the UUA Professional Development Associate for Religious Education and Mausic Leaders:

Professional Development
Encourage your religious educator to join LREDA, the Liberal Religious Educators Association, which is an affiliate of the UUA. The categories of membership include Student/New DRE, Supportive, and Active. Members are seen as engaging in ministry in the fullest sense, are held to the highest standards, and are bound by the Bylaws, the Code of Professional Practices and the Guidelines for Professional Religious Educators. A task force of LREDA is in the process of developing professional standards.

It is imperative, both for the personal competence of the religious educator and the effectiveness of the program, that the congregation provide study leave and financial assistance to support the educator's continuing education. A range of options is currently available through the Office of Professional Development in the Religious Education Department of the UUA.